Friday, June 29, 2007

Weapon 'S' (Marvel comics)
Silver Surfer #107 When: August 1995
Why: Mike Lackey How: Tom Grindberg

The story so far...
In his search for power, Dr. Doom has found many different avenues to achieve new levels of superiority. Through the sciences and magics, he has made himself one of the most impressive rulers on the planet, but a cosmic prize has eluded him over the years.

The Silver Surfer's power cosmic, bestowed upon him by the planet devouring entity called Galactus, has made him known throughout the cosmos for reasons good and bad.

As a power source, Dr. Doom has many times sought him out to steal or liberate him of his power. This is just such an occassion, where, for reasons of his own, the Silver Surfer seeks release from his condition. A wish he may come to regret.

Previous Form:
Silver Surfer (#31): Victories over Green Lantern and Ronan the Accuser.
Dr. Doom: Has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
All this time, and the best I come up with is a Greg Land image? I know!...Strength: Silver Surfer 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Dr. Doom 6 (Genius)
Speed: Silver Surfer 7 (Lightspeed)
Stamina: Silver Surfer 6 (Generator)
Agility: Silver Surfer 3 (Athlete)
Fighting Ability: Silver Surfer 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Silver Surfer 7 (Solar Power)

A hush fell over the crowd as it dawned on them!
After a year and a half - was it criminal negligance or masterful hype? Regardless of which, Dr. Doom has finally come to Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

Well, actually, that's not entirely true... This story is about a doombot.
A doombot is a robotic facsimile of the real thing, often programmed to act and assume it is the one true Dr. Doom. The programming is so thorough that these robots have even been known to turn against their own master!

We've never had to call upon it, but from the earliest days of our Infinite Wars there has been an unwritten law in place. A law designed to be called upon twenty months after the site's birth: The Doombot Denouement Decree.

This is a special rule designed to account for the fact that often by a story's conclusion, it's impossible to say for certain whether the character described was in fact the true Doom, or merely a robotic pawn or imitator. Thus, by supposing that Doombots represent crucial tools in Doom's arsenal, they represent him in the rankings, absorbing and supplying his wins and losses accordingly.

In this particular instance we know from the beginning that this is a Doombot. The story revolves around a Doombot that has found a new sense of consciousness and is, by extension of thought on it's programming, preparing to wage ware on all things living. It intends to do this with the power cosmic, but that's beside the point, for now...

The Silver Surfer with powers in tact, could probably handle a Doombot pretty safely. Though stories sometimes depict him as a little bit dumber or weaker than he actually is, he could probably handle the real Dr. Doom easily too. Although, by implication, more often than not a Doombot would be no easier than the real Dr. Doom, anyway...

... My point is, that under normal circumstances Silver Surfer has it in the bag, or at least some sort of conclusion that alludes to his success. An inconclusive result might actually be the more likely, but the tape generally isn't about calling a draw.

Dr. Doom's tools for victory are evasion, mysticism and/or technology, particularly applied to strip Silver Surfer of his powers, and add them to his own. In a scenario where this has already been achieved, Silver Surfer stands little to no chance alone, and given that this is the situation, well... It's not looking good.

To keep the ape pure, we'll assume this is a peak Silver Surfer, but... Well, consider that a little bit of a spoiler...

The Math: Silver Surfer (Cosmic Class)
The Pick: Silver Surfer

What went down...
Having successfully stripped the Silver Surfer of his powers, the Doombot goes about destroying a planet, liberating it of it's dweller's perceived suffering.

The Doombot recalls events from Fantastic Four #56-#60, the original story of Dr. Doom's first attempt to take possession of the power cosmic. The Doombot reveals that it was Doom's human frailties that made the task impossible, and reveals himself to be a specially comissioned Doombot designed to seek-out the Surfer and contain his power within a robotic cell.

Intent on fulfillin his programmed destiny, the Doombot seems unstoppable, but even so, Norrin Radd - the Silver Surfer - faces him with courage and conviction.
He leaps at Doom, but suffers the powerful blast of Dr. Doom's gauntlet, lacking the cosmic power to withstand and defend against it.

Imprisoned on Doom's ship, the powerless Silver Surfer attempts to use the last of his energies to psychically tap the shoulder of Legacy, the inheritor of Captain Mar-Vell's power. Hoping he too would possess a cosmic awareness, the Surfer calls out through the void left by his power.
Though Legacy hears, he has problems of his own, leaving the Surfer, as far as he knows, alone in the depths of space.

Eager to take possession of the Surfer's space faring silver board, the Doombot furiously storms the Surfer's chamber, discontent with his inability to control it. As an automaton, the robot lacks the life to control the board, and the Surfer promises that even without his power, he will take control of the board again.

The Surfer lashes out furiously with a fist that cracks the metallic shell of Dr. Doom's puppet. Without the power cosmic, he proves to be of little physical challenge, even with the machine's inability to truly master the power.

The Doombot swats Radd swiftly into submission, striking his powerless body with an unforgiving gauntlet. The Doombot delivers his own decree of robotic philosophy, looking down on organic lifeform's concepts of vanity and life and love, while burying his fist into the Surfer's frail stomach.

He speaks of a much larger picture, while striking the Surfer again and again, unrelenting!

With the Surfer helplessly lying on the cold metallic floor of the spaceship, the Doombot begins a new chapter in his own sense of awareness.

The Surfer tries to tell the machine that divinity must be earned, but having pleaded for the removal of his powers, his cause is harmed in the calculating eyes of the Doombot.

Reevaluating, the Doombot declares war not only on the Fantastic Four and the enemies of his template, but on life, imperfection, and Victor Von Doom himself! With the power cosmic the Doombot intends to destroy all things imperfect, and therefore all things living.

In a burst of energy, the first to die are his crewmates as he destroys the spaceship from the inside-out, no longer requiring of a vessel to travel.
Though the Surfer's chrome covered body survives the cosmic explosion, he drifts helplessly in space, with the question looming -- how long can he survive?!

And with that, the Doombot floats patiently awaiting the result, victorious.

The hammer...
So, with the exception described in the tape, let us declare Dr. Doom the winner, despite this Doombot's overwhelming personality and goals.

As you may have noticed, this served as a bit more awkward an update than usual. The fight itself occupies only so much of the book, in between the ranting faux philosophies, and flashes to other characters involved in the book's on-going sub-plots (Legacy, Tyrant, Galactus...).
Never the less, I thought it would be nice to close the book on Fantastic Fridays with a fifth-week special featuring the other stars of Rise of the Silver Surfer.

During the month it has been interesting to note how few Fantastic Four related searches we've received, but one particular google hit does spring to mind. That was a search concerning a plot device from the film, that connects the Silver Surfer's power cosmic to the possession of his surfboard.

I try to keep an eye on what kind of things are drawing in traffic, but for things like this, it'd be great to see you dropping a comment or question. I like to think of Secret Earths as a potential resource, as much as it is a fun site to check out superhero slugfests. Well, okay, maybe not as much as that...

I haven't actually seen Rise of the Silver Surfer, but I can presume that placing the importance on the surfboard is a way of streamlining the methods of attaining the Surfer's powers. This, of course, is not true to the comics, and is likely to save time and exposition, recasting the scenario in a way more palattable to zoo-going theatre audiences.

I imagine it's no mean feat, even in the films, to steal the board away from the Surfer. As we've witnessed here during the Infinite Wars, it is not only a travelling method, but also a useful part of the Silver Surfer's cosmic arsenal. [
Silver Surfer #13]

More often than not, the methods of stealing the Silver Surfer's power cosmic involve subduing the cosmic hero, and subjecting him to large, mysterious and non-descript machines. It might not be very specific, but I like to think it's a bit more tangible than playing keepaway with his board. Maybe that's just me.

I don't know how Doom is foiled in the movies, but generally the answers lie in Doom's own follies, or the intervention of someone like Mr. Fantastic or event Galactus himself. As bad a guy as Dr. Doom can be, there really isn't much you can do against a dude can pluck you out of the sky and strip you of your energy, before snacking down on a tiny planet.

As we follow along the lengthy trail of villains through Marvel Ultimate Alliance Mondays, we will get an opportunity to stop-in on Galactus, and culminate our adventures through the Marvel Universe with another entry or two with Doc Doom! In the mean time, it's good do have the doctor in!

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 3.5

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Absolute Power Chapter One: "I Pledge Allegiance..." (DC comics)
Superman/Batman #14 When: January 2005
Why: Jeph Loeb How: Carlos Pacheco

The story so far...
In a world where the fates of the world's greatest superheroes have been manipulated, Superman and Batman serve as dictators to the world's greatest super power.

Though the Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen and Cosmic King preemptively extinguished most of the rebellious powers that may rise, some inevitably emerge as though time and space was fighting their will. One such resistant is Oliver Queen, known to the world as the bow carrying vigilante -- Green Arrow!

Though he was killed once before, the Green Arrow seems unwilling to perish.
His return from the dead remains a thorn in the sides of the world's finest, but even as a resurrected symbol of hope, Green Arrow is just a man. A man fighting would-be gods...

Previous Form:
Batman (#2): Has victories over overwhelming odds, including Superman & Amazo.
Superman (#9): Single-handedly decimated the Freedom Fighters in this universe.
Green Arrow (#10): Victories against Superman, Brick and Red Hood.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Superman 6 (Speed of Sound)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Superman 5 (Lasers)

Even though this is a battle exclusive to the top ten, the tape paints a pretty telling picture of the situation we have before us.

When you pair up two of the world's most iconic superheroes, evil better beware.

When you travel back in time to twist and destort their origins, so that you may raise them as your own little dictators -- everyone better watch it!

Green Arrow and Batman draw a lot of parallels between them. While GA tends to stand as the quasi-knock-off of his counterpart, they and their families have grown in tandem in ways that have made them even more similar than before.

The defining link between GA and Batman is the fact that, in a world of legends, they are two of the more prominent and successful humans.
While they accomplish fantastic feats, and overcome impossible odds, they are forever distance from their fellows, who can shoot lasers from their eyes, turn invisible, move at staggering speeds, or shatter eardrums with their voice.

Even of these two, Batman tends to top GA in most of their common fields.
Batman is more wile, he's richer, he's a better fighter, he's got a bigger arsenal, he plays dirtier, he has more sidekicks. He just generally one-ups Green Arrow in all but the most green of areas.

When you pile on the man of steel, it's overkill. Green Arrow is history.
Even a Superman who is somehow being manipulated [Batman #612] into fighting, and can be seen resisting, towers over the Green Arrow.

He has a couple of assists to his name with Batman against Superman [Dark Knight Returns #4, Dark Knight Strikes Again #1], both which include the use of kryptonite arrows -- which are a valid argument for neutralizing the threat of Superman, but at the end of the day, it just isn't enough to sway the argument.

The Math: Superman & Batman
The Pick: Superman & Batman

What went down...
Having rescued a couple from an armored trio of soldiers, Green Arrow grimaces as they speak the phrase, "Look... Up in the sky..."

Green Arrow turns to find Superman and Batman looming over him. He draws an arrow from his quiver instantly, preparing for the birthday battle that Batman has gifted his adopted brother. GA sends his present early.

At first Superman mocks the simple arrow, but as the head explodes in an array of green particle dust, he quickly realises the potency of the weapon.

Batman leaps from his fire escape perch, promising to kill Green Arrow if Superman has been at all hurt. Gee, he's falling from the sky because of an arrow fired at him. Might be a little late for if he was hurt, Bruce.

Though the leap would surely have earned him a high score from the judges, Batman lands perfectly to eat some bow wood, as Green Arrow sacrifices his weapon for an early edge.

Batman wipes his mouth and explodes, nailing Green Arrow with a backhand to the ribs, before rising into a devestating right-left combination.

He nails his bearded counterpart with a roundhouse kick, but remains unsatisfied. Still in a rage over the attack on his brother, he calls for Green Arrow to get back up.

Ever the rebel, GA pulls one of the arrows from his quivver and buries it into the ribs of the Dark Knight detective!

Though it delivers a suitable amount of pain, the arrow doesn't slow the Batman in the slighest. He returns the favour with an almost instinctive kick to the face that sprays GA's blood, and sufficiently distracts as he rips the arrow from his own body.

Before either of the fighting pair even knows what's happened, the alley in which they're fighting suddenly turns red with light.

Green ARrow is reduced to ash by two precision beams from above, fading before the caped crusader.

Descending from above, a stone-faced Superman bares a twinkle of red in his eyes, and coldly delivers his command: "Obey or die."

With the vigilante thwarted, Superman and Batman return to their moonbase, where they share cake for Superman's birthday with their metro contempo-liberal trio of parents. The end.

The hammer...
Superman and Batman win! Fatality!

So, there's an age old argument that Superman could beat just about anyone, because if he really stopped holding back he would either fling them into space/the sun at super speeds -- or he would obliterate them before they could blink with heat vision.

Absolute Power seemed to cause a bit of a stir, as most Jeph Loeb stories tend to do these days, but there remains one undeniable truth about the entirety of his work on Superman/Batman: It was fun!

NOT LIKE THIS!Granted, some times it was more fun than others, but on the whole, it was a lot of fun. It's time travel/reality bending antics provided an opportunity to play around with a lot of common place concepts, like what it would be like to have The Ultimates fight DC characters, or what would happen in a world where Superman just uses his heat vision to kill people with silly beards!

Unfortunately irrelevant to the review of the fight is the conclusion to this issue, which also makes brilliant use of Wonder Woman's lasso of truth as a lead-in to the following issue. [Superman/Batman #15]

Having survived an assault from the military police; a stealthy Wonder Woman lurks her way into the depths of the abandoned White House, where a raggedy old hobo in a dirty trenchcoat is sleeping amongst some boxes. He tries to run, crying for help, but is quickly snagged in the glowing enchanted Amazonian ropes.

Somehow aware of everything this hobo was, and stands for, Wonder Woman compells him to remember the truth, and under the vow of the rope, he is transformed into the patriotic symbol of American freedom: Uncle Sam!

It's a great scene, and really another fine example where a playful idea that would otherwise be difficult to come across gets a chance to air. It's not a revolution, but it's a nice little story, none the less.

Speaking of birthdays, July marks mine, and I was supposed to be doing a few extra entries during this month. As I'm writing this it's the sixth, so even though I'm making up some ground, we might have a small gap for the beginning of July.
I was going to use the free schedule to try to do more spontaneous updates, but for the time being it'll be the buffer to catch up. More of that in the Punch-Up!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 5

Monday, June 25, 2007

Law of the Jungle (Marvel comics)
Spider-man Ep. 3 When: July 2003
Why: Greg Johnson & Audu Paden How: Neil Patrick Harris & Rob Zombie

The story so far...
Having lost his arm in an accident working for Oscorp; Dr. Curt Conners turns his scientific brilliance toward developing a means for cell regeneration through a hybrid genetic therapy using reptilian DNA.

With success imminent, the good doctor sends his lab aid, Peter Parker, home early so he can inject himself in private with the serum developed.

The doctor's arm quickly regenerates, but as time eventually reveals, there are other, more sinister side effects awaiting the doctor. Symptoms like scales, a prehensile tail, and erratic, instinctive animal-like behaviour. Good thing Peter is hip to the change, at least, it is for Harry Osborn, who's clearing his father's office out at Oscorp...

Previous Form:
Spider-man (#1): Has victories on film over arch-nemesis; Kraven and Green Goblin.
The Lizard (#300): Defeated by the X-Men and the Avengers on seperate occasions.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: The Lizard 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: The Lizard 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Spider-man 2 (Projectiles)

Y'know, the 'previous form' mini-section there tends to go completely under the radar, but it's an interesting statistic to note here. Yes, we've reached the three hundred mark, but more telling to this battle is the two hundred and ninety-eight characters that seperate Spidey and the Lizard.

The Lizard isn't any kind of schmuck! He's been an esteemed member of Spidey's rogues gallery since the beginning, but by his very nature he has a knack for being defeated. Which really goes to his core as a tragic villain.

The man inside the monster - Dr. Curt Conners - is not only a good, wholesome family man, but he's also one of Spider-man and Peter Parker's greatest allies. The nature of his transformations and the quality of the man within mean the people around him are always highly motivated to put an end to his turmoil, and ultimately makes him a soft target off-the-page.

We've seen Spider-man shoot to the top with an unprecedented number of wins (and features) in 2007, and it really just goes to highlight that, for all his "human foibles", Spider-man remains the archetypal hero when it hits print.

The Lizard has all the tools to challenge Spider-man. He's got strength, cunning, guile, speed, agility, and has even been known to match-up with a bit of wall crawling. Typically, he's one of those characters that brings Spider-man back down on his sliding scale of strength, and that might be justified by the psychological and emotional connection between Spidey and Conners.

Still, at the end of the day, Spidey's record against the character is likely insurmountable, and though he may periodically lapse, the Lizard will return to life as Dr. Conners. It is inherently as inevitable as his changing into the Lizard.

The Math: Spider-man (Meta Class)
The Pick: Spider-man

What went down...
Working late to clear out his deceased father's office [Spider-man: The Movie], an unsuspecting Harry Osborn finds himself under the attack of the lethal Lizard! Though succumbing to a primal state, somewhere inside, the Lizard calls upon his grim fate at the hands of Oscorp's negligance, and seeks revenge!

While Spider-man races to the scene, Harry maneuvers his way through the labyrinth of corridors in the Oscorp office complex, snagging a fire axe while evading the leaping lizard that claws and hops his way through the narrow halls.

Harry manages to slice away the Lizard's fingers as he slowly stalks around a corner, but they quickly regenerate thanks to the mysterious serum flowing in his veins. Unphased, the Lizard is now even more motivated as he corners the axe-wielding Osborn in a conference room.

Knocking Harry down with a slash to his arm, the Lizard prepares to move in for the kill, but as he does, a comedic voice descends from above -- Spider-man!
A self-launching Spider-man knocks the Lizard down, propelling himself from the bottom of a walking platform.

The Lizard recovers, taking several swipes and bites at the Spider-man, but his agility proves superior. A red fist swings up with a devestating uppercut, again flooring the Lizard as he goes head-over-heels, backward.

Grabbing a fire extinguisher with thoughts of acting out on his vendetta against Spider-man, Harry thinks better, agreeing to take Spider-man's provided escape opportunity.

In something of a primal rage, the Lizard crawls around on all fours before launching himself at Spidey. With no regard for the safety of himself or his prey, the Lizard sends he and Spider-man hurtling down beside the skyscraper.

Spidey shoots out web-lines to slow his descent, while the Lizard uses his talon-esque fingertips to cling to the side of the building. The Lizard wastes no time scaling the building in pursuit of Spider-man, who heads for the rooftop.

Inside, Harry calls the police, while above, Spider-man does combat with the ferocious Lizard.

Spidey again makes good use of his super-agility, narrowly escaping several close quarters lunging attacks, before springing to a higher vantage point atop a radio tower.

He attempts to connect with the Doctor within, appealing to his human nature to reject the return of his arm for the price it comes with. The Lizard wastes little time contemplating, instead using his own spring to leap after Spidey.

Avoiding the attack, Spider-man lands atop a large spinning fan, shooting web-lines out to the Lizard before feeding them into the spinning blades. The power of the machine yanks the Lizard from his tower perch, into the protective grill.

The Lizard hits with a thud as police helecopters begin circling overhead, casting their search lights at the super-powered struggle below.

With the fan jammed by Spider-man's webbing, the Lizard mangles the grill to free himself from his ensnarement. The police, believing the pair to be accomplices, calls for both of their surrender, while the Lizard launches an unsuspecting attack.

Lizard yanks Spidey off his proverbial soap box, and drags him to the ground below. With the blades of the industrial fan again spinning, the Lizard holds Spider-man menacingly by the throat with his powerful hands.

Preparing a killing stroke, the Lizard pulls his sharp nails back.
The police copter provides Spider-man with the leverage he needs to shoot a web to yank himself to freedom, as the Lizard follows through to plunge his arm into the spinning turbine!

It slices Dr. Conners' arm down in a parallel to his previous injuries. Sufficiently distracted, Spider-man webs him up from the bottom of the helecopter, and the police take-off with both in their 'custody'.

The Lizard continues to struggle, using his remaining arm to slash Spider-man's web. He plummets earthbound, landing in the streets below. Unable to make a getaway, the Lizard lies in the street, and sheds a single tear.

The hammer...
The winner, and still champion -- the amazing Spider-man!

I'm going to completely cop-out, and remind everyone that Mondays remain dedicated to the villains featured in the now classic, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance video game. These entries, which have fuelled the past few months, have been attracting some hits, so hopefully some of you hardcore gamers have gotten something out of them.

In a similar theme, it's nice to get another episode of the extremely underrated MTV Spider-man cartoon up! I think this was the kind of thing that really grew on me the more I've watched it, and I'm sure last time [Spider-man Ep. 13] I mentioned how impressive I thought the writing was, but I must do it again.

When you say 'MTV are doing a Spider-man cartoon', it's a bit of an ugh attractor. The inevitable image of a Spider-man with baseball cap backward and baggy pants comes to mind, but what the people behind this particular toon really did well was write motivated, intelligent done-in-one episodes with impressive success and respect for both the materials, and the requirements of MTV and their 'hip' image.

This is probably one of the few instances where, by luck or design, decisions to go with existing and original characters were made with flawless precision.
Few characters unique to cartoons or films are as enjoyable as some of the characters seen in this show, which, granted, were largely designed off existing characters like Black Cat, Rocket Racer and Kraven. But that shouldn't discount the decision process which ultimately proves 'right'.

Likewise the peppering of characters like Lizard and Kingpin and Silver Sable throughout the series helps sustain a familiarity for interested existing fans like myself -- but does so in a way that allows them to do something fresh and suitable for the surroundings in which these versions of the characters exist.

In many ways, I almost think with rare exception that this series was Ultimate Spider-man done right. Even if that's an incredibly subjective opinion.

For my tastes it's just a much interesting balance of factors like having Parker back in schooling (college, rather than high), elements of the movie, reinvented versions of characters, and classic elements of the Spider-man formula.
It just brings it together in a way - and at a pace and style - that sustains my interest far and above the regularly disappointing Ultimate title, which currently stands as a vague parallel to the existing Spider-man.

This episode represents a fairly familiar take on the Lizard character, but recasts Dr. Conners with the voice of Rob Zombie, which actually works quite well, and gives a suitably gruff edge to this version of the character. The stiffness in Zombie's voice-acting compliments the writing, which takes the friendly scientist and reimagines him as a much shorter and superior character.

The family connection is presumably removed to better relate the character to younger MTV viewers, while also better condensing the character's story and history into a single, relevant, flowing episode. While it's something I like about the redeeming qualities and conundrum of fighting the Lizard, I think the tragic villain is still well captured, even though this version relies on taking the already unlikable and building that up until a brief moment at the very end of the episode.
It's classic, even without mirroring the exact motivations of the original.

Of course, the MTV and Mainframe gang didn't hit every right note.
As much as they have their triumphs, they have their 'movie Dr. Doom' in the reimagining of Electro as a college sophmore who undergoes a drastic transformation. That, however, might be an entry for another day!

The Fight: 6 The Episode: 6
NEXT WEEK: Can even Marvel's mighty mutants stop The Executioner?!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Adapt This! (Marvel comics)
Fantastic Four: Unplugged #1 When: September 1995
Why: Mike Lackey How: Heitor Oliviera

The story so far...
A rainy night in New York City goes from bad to worse for the ever loving blue eyed thing. When he's too late to get a lottery ticket, a good deed goes punished when, having prevented a line-cutter from stealing a woman's cab, the Thing spots the FF emergency flare in the night sky.

Convincing the bedgrudging woman to share the cab, Thing makes for the Williamsburg Bridge where traffic is backed up for blocks. A cop informs him of a dangerous monster on the bridge, and when Thing asks about the Human Torch's progress he gets a nasty shock!

What super-baddy could fool the thing with a flaming signal? None other than the Mad Thinker's Super Adaptoid! Running amok, the Adaptoid has programming for one thing: The destruction of the Fantastic Four! So, watch out! It's a bridge-bound Brooklyn brawl, true believers!

Previous Form:
Thing (#22): Team victories over the Frightul Four & Sinister Twelve.
Super Adaptoid: No Adaptoid has yet been featued on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Super Adaptoid 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 2 (Average)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Super Adaptoid 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Thing 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Super Adaptoid 5 (Lasers)

Y'know, when it comes to the tape, it's pretty unflattering for the ever lovin' blue-eyed Thing. Unfortunately, that really boils down to his weighted skills toward strength, which lack compensation in any other avenues.

Not that that is really a huge disadvantage for the Thing, who bruises with the best of them! Winning versatility competitions generally isn't a big part of the day when you're fighting the likes of Blastaar, Mad Thinker, Hulk and Sandman!

Of course, it gets a bit more complicated when the clobbering is up against someone designed specifically to counter and mimic your own abilities.
In that respect, the Super Adaptoid resembles the Super-Skrull, but in-truth the way in which the Adaptoid utilizes his mimickery of things like Mr. Fantastic's malleability may be far more brutal than the obscurely honorable Skrull.

When you way it up, Thing is facing the combined might of himself and his fellows in one shot, which puts him at a disadvantage by anyone's math. Generally Thing's heart and determination is going to be what gets him by, if only to buy time for the support of his teammates, but in the absence of the Fantastic Four does the Thing have the necessary might to prevail?

I'd like to think Thing always has a little extra in the tank, but the math is pretty compelling in this circumstance...

The Math: Super Adaptoid (Super Class)
The Pick: Thing (It's clobberin' time!)

What went down...
Before Thing can even digest what's going on, a giant blocky flaming fist comes out of nowhere to smack him in the gaping mouth! A fist that belongs to -- an Adaptoid!

Thing wastes no time taking a shot, but the Adaptoid takes it willingly!
The Adaptoid moves with it, shifting his fingers into jagged talons, and takes a swipe that puts the Thing on the back foot, but catches Adaptoid's hand in a nearby butcher's truck.

Thing uses the opportunity to bury the fist into the mid-section, taking the free-shot while it's there, but Adaptoid quickly rips his hand free, spraying blood (and ribs!) across Thing!

Thing notes a rumbling before taking another shot that sends him flying onto the elevated train tracks! Floored, Thing still manages to roll across the tracks out of harms way, while the Adaptoid pauses, holding his ears as the shriek of the train's brakes scream into the night air.

The train hits the Adaptoid, but it has little effect on the super-durable creature. The conductor comes to check on him, and suffers a decapitation, witnessed as the Thing pulls himself back onto the tracks. It renews his motivation.

The Adaptoid returns to the bridge, flaming blades for hands, as he invariably encounters the woman with which the Thing shared a cab. Towering over the young woman, Thing arrives just in the nick of time!

A left bends the Adaptoid's face outta shape, before Thing nails him with a right that launches the villainous mechanoid into the air!

Alas, it's not that easy! The Adaptoid comes back fast, dodging a wild swipe from the Thing, to hook up with him from behind! With no holds barred, the Thing opens his mighty jaws to bite down into the mushy arm wrapped around him!

The move forces the Adaptoid to release the hold, but Thing is quickly shocked to discover this Adaptoid retains remote control over even pieces broken away! While the Adaptoid recovers from the move, the tiny piece in the Thing's throat begins to wriggle around and try to choke him!

With a devestating crunch, the Thing pounds both of his fists into his rocky abdomen, performing a super-Heimlich maneuver on himself!

The tiny saliva covered projectile lands at the feat of the taxi-cab lady, still desperate to get beyond the fight to continue to her recital. She stomps the chunk of Adaptoid, and finds her expensive shoe snared in it's grip! Using her handbag she pounds furiously at it, before finally proving her worth in the scene. (Gee, could you tell she had a greater purpose here?)

A vial of perfume in the bag breaks, spilling onto the piece of Adaptoid with explosive results! Assuming the reaction was caused by alcohol, she calls the revelation out to the Thing!

With a beer delivery truck conveniently stuck on the bridge, Thing is able to scoop the Adaptoid up and toss him into the truck! The Super Adaptoid thunders back at the Thing, striking him with a cloud of foamy suds burning from his rubbery body.

The Adaptoid's body begins to lose dexterity, gradually becoming increasingly unstable and gooey, until he eventually melts to a smoking stain on the bridge.

And, the lady from the taxi-cab?
Takes off to leave Thing with the toll. Nice!

The hammer...
And after that lengthy account we can call it a definitive win for the Thing!

This is a very interesting comic.
I don't know if I just got a little too distracted writing the fight summary, but the past fifteen minutes are a complete haze!
We've been talking a lot the past month about comics that could provide valuable knowledge to the future of comics, particularly for the generation that progresses out of the shadow of anti-heroes and bad heroes.

This issue sort of touches on some of those writing themes, even if this is a fairly classic take on the Thing character himself.
What you won't appreciate from the scanned panels and summary is the violent quality to the comic. For what is essentially a superhero fight comic, Lackey's script seems to refuse to resign to that, and is ultimately filled with a lot of cheap, throwaway distractions.

The lady from the taxi-cab plays awkwardly, imposing character interaction better fitted to a character who could be developed with the benefit of time, and potentially be a love interest for Thing. Having just seen Strange Than Fiction, I recall the description that in a comedy the love interest begins hating the hero, but ultimately hooks up with him. That's exactly the comedic set-up you have here.

Unfortunately, this is a character that has, as far as I know, no future in Marvel comics from this point, and plays as little more than an intrusive mcguffin to defeat this version of the Super Adaptoid!

Given the hyperactively kinetic quality to the page layouts, these sorts of distractions, and moreso spontaneous scenes of unrelated extreme violence [like the conductor's off-screen splatter execution...], serve to make this a very jarring story. It's no wonder that Fantastic Four: Unplugged didn't become a series.

As a first issue of anything, it's pretty average, but I suppose some benefit has to be given to what seems to be an intent to tell isolated, done-in-one stories with the characters from the FF. I didn't read any of the following issues, so I don't know whether or not that was successful, but needless to say, the ending - which depicts a firey Human Torch declaring he's quitting the team - does not inspire great hope.

We're now in July and I'd very much like to catch-up soon, so I'll wrap it up with a question posed to anyone reading: Is Mike Lackey a pseudonym?!
I'd like to think he is, but then something in the blank that is my mind right now is nagging at me with some forgotten evidence to suggest he's a person.

If he is, I mean no disrespect for this review, and wish he and his family well.

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 3

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

For Tomorrow: Part 3 (DC comics)
Superman #206 When: August 2004
Why: Brian Azzarello How: Jim Lee

The story so far...
Superman has found a human friend in Father Leone, but even as they debate the philosophies of Superman's existence in the world, their seemingly unrelated perspectives inevitably collide.

For Superman, his mission begins in the investigation of a phenomena called The Vanishing, which describes the unexplained mass disappearance of citizens of the United States. Among the missing, Lois Lane, Superman's wife.

Tracing the Vanishing to the Middle East; Superman intervenes in a civil war, resonating his discussions of divine intervention with the minister. Ultimately the fates decide Superman's course of action, but not before he comes to blows with a soldier the likes of which has never been see -- Equus!

Previous Form:
Superman (#9): Victories over Hulk, Metallo, Moleman, Wonder Woman & Uncle Sam.
Equus: Has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Superman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Superman 6 (Speed of Sound)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Superman 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Equus 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Superman 5 (Lasers)

Did you like that intro? Oh, yessir! That's the kind of build-up you want if you're new on the scene as a Superman villain. Sadly, it might not be entirely accurate to describe Equus as "a soldier the likes of which has never been seen."

In truth, Equus bares a very basic resemblance to a similar, but theoretically more successful villain who goes by the name Doomsday.
Yeah, you might have heard of him. Tall guy, grey, lots of white lumpy, spikey bits. Carries the claim to fame of killing Superman, for a bit.

There's a bit of a disappointing repetitive quality to a lot of Superman villains. It might even be somewhat a contradictory conunundrum, because you see, the very thing that makes these characters so utterly similar, is exactly the kind of thing that's needed in a solid, new Superman foe.

Because you've got your Lex Luthors, your Braniacs, and your Bizarros; but when it comes to day-to-day fighting, who's Superman got? Who can play the stand-in for an arc or two here and there, before disappearing to await another go?

What a good upper-mid tier Superman villain needs is strength and cunning.
Granted, Equus has that, and skills to boot. For some inexplicable reason, his Doomsday-esque have the likeminded capability of piercing the Man of Steel's skin [or outer-telekinetic forcefield, depending on your persuasion! - Mike of Steel]. Doomsday himself being a product of science, who knows whether or not these characters might represent the advanced and the obselete, but at the end of the day one thing is true of Equus that wasn't of Doomsday.

We know Equus won't win.

I could talk about pounds-per-inch, about tonnage, and bending steel, but when the dust settles and the sun casts it's dramatic shadow of resolution: Superman wins this. He's seen tougher, and he's beaten them!

The Math: Superman (Super Class)
The Pick: Superman

What went down...
Advancing on the kingdom, Equus marches beyond the dead bodies and pools of blood, while the commanding General Nox begins to warn him of incoming interference. Before Nox can get beyond the 'soup,' a red blur begins to take form, before colliding with the genetically processed bulk of Equus!

The impact of the collision leaves Equus on his super-engineered arse.

Equus refers to his actions as part of liberating a country, but Superman seems unconvinced. Ol' Kal's always had an aversion to blood, mind.
The two titans stay their pleasantries and come to blows, Supes going for a defensive-offensive on one of the fists, while going for the jugular with his free hand.

The move proves to be a surprising tactical error, as Superman's chiseled cheek becomes the unwitting victim of Equus' spiney claws. As though reacting to the shock of pain, a Superman on one knee swats Equus away with a savage right!

Supes puts up a brave face, but we all know getting slashed on the cheek smarts! Equus lets out a threatening growl, but the fight ends with an exchange of insults as General Nox declares no quarrel with the Superman.

The revolutionary leads Superman to the palace balcony, where masses of people stand cheering Nox' name in joyous celebration. While he disagrees with the methods of the coup, Superman bends to the will of the new authority, and leaves it.

The hammer...
With points favouring noone in particular, it's a draw!

So, about that intro... In truth, my dramatic exposition completely undercuts one of the terribly interesting facets of this storyline. Something that may still be one of the most overlooked portions of the story, and that's its obscure connection to the company-wide event that was, Infinite Crisis!

The connection is marginal, but what some won't know is that the technologies being explored within the pages of For Tomorrow mark the precursor for what become the contemporary model for OMAC.

We might very well wind up talking about those issues in the future, so I won't elaborate too much, but I found that to be one of the most interesting facets of this project at the time. There were a lot interesting things to consider going into, and whilst experiencing, this project, which received a fair amount of criticism in contrast to it's impressive sales figures.

This, I think, marked a real turning point in the evolution of comics in the double-oh's [2000's]. I think we see a lot of the current landscape forming in this period, out of the crossovers and artistic movements of the nineties, which gradually morphed from stories like Batman: Fugitive into Batman: Hush.

I think it was a very conceited progression from a bit of an industry funk, where low sales figures gave strong ideas the opportunity to stand out. It's here that you see the unquestionable rise of the Brian Bendis' of today, and a reactionary wave circling out of that to start building even the most trivial of stories with a writer-driven concept.

Coming out of Hush, the semi-retired Jim Lee was a renewed force, and a degree of seperation called Broken City connected him a step down to Brian Azzarello, a man better known for non-superhero books like 100 Bullets.
Broken City had the daunting task of following Hush, and while it did it with some of the most impressive style I've seen on Batman in years, it suffered the difference of 'names', which had retained their power inspite of a story-driven shift in the medium.

'... with all the UGLY!' -- Who needs heatvision when you've got BURNS like that?! Ouchie!We can easily attribute the sales of this project to Jim Lee, and in some ways it's unfortunate that that overshadowed what was otherwise billed as Brian Azzarello's shot at the superhero 'big-time.' While this story was suffering the blows of critics' condition-based scrutiny, an interesting take on the boyscout was lurking underneath.

In the same way Thunderbolts may demonstrate the learning and understanding of how the anti-hero exists in comics through the scope of heroic-villains, this particular story perhaps puts a spotlight on the same subject from a different angle.

In contrast to the post-Infinite Crisis mandate of action based 'bright' stories with the DC icons, this represented an attempt to bring grim internal conflict, and gritty world affairs to the threshold of the world's biggest superhero. While it perhaps proved a point of giving Superman feet of steel, it did at least provide an interesting take on the character. It perhaps just did so over too many pages.

The conundrum, of course, is writing Superman to have problems to deal with, without making them so problematic, people reject them. The latter pehaps being the problem here, where Superman is essentially handed existential and moral questions alongside physical encounters with Equus, Zod and other.

His relationship with the priest, Father Leone, which ultimately provides the emotional throughline of the story, provides a method of externalising Superman's human struggles, without actually having to uncharacteristically diminish what Superman is capable of. And diminishing his abilities has probably been the misguided method of the past.

I did quite enjoy this series, even if only as a contained piece of history that need not be revisited within the pages of the on-going title. It probably isn't what you want to see in a Superman book every month, but Brian Azzarello deserves the credit of writing a very interesting Superman story.
Likewise, Jim Lee delivers competent work, arguably the text-book example of dynamic, well crafted, contemporary superhero comics.

More on this story in the future, but in the mean time, I need some sleep!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 6

Monday, June 18, 2007

Justice... (Marvel comics)
Thunderbolts #1 When: April 1997
Why: Kurt Busiek How: Mark Bagley

The story so far...
Earth's mightiest heroes are dead: Killed saving Manhattan and humanity from the threat of the dreaded Onslaught!
In their stead they leave a gaping justice-shaped hole and a population of villains ready to take advantage of the power vacuum.

Then, as if from nowhere -- Justice like lightning!
Enter the Thunderbolts! A team of mysterious heroes with strange and fantastic powers, led by the courageous WWII inspired patriot, Citizen V.

The Thunderbolts represent a new wave of protectors, tackling threats like the Hulk and the Masters of Evil! Or do they? Though these mysterious heroes have manipulated the media to cement their success, what dark secrets lie beneath their colourful costumes and masks? Maybe the Wrecking Crew will find out!

Previous Form:
Baron Zemo (#287): Defeated by Hulk, Captain America and Cable.
Songbird (#162): Present for multiple instances of the team.
Thunderbolts [#14]: Split results, defeating Jack Flag, with a loss to Hulk.
Wrecking Crew: Have not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: The Wrecker 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Techno 6 (Genius)
Speed: Moonstone 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Bulldozer 6 (Generator)
Agility: Citizen V 3 (Athlete)
Fighting Ability: Citizen V 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Moonstone 5 (Lasers)

Well, I've been busy-busy, but it's about damned time we get talking about The T-bolts, and the Wrecking Crew. Serious business, friends!

While not as prevelant as the Avengers or X-Men, we've had the opportunity to see a couple of incarnations of the Thunderbolts in action, and unless you've been living under a comics rock for ten years, you'll have some idea that the Thunderbolts generally have an association with some form of villainy.

Traditionally villains are not particularly cohesive or proficient fighting units, but the Thunderbolts were able to exceed the individuals, to become a superior fighting whole. Thus, let us deduce that motivation strengthens team dynamic, and therefore gives the Thunderbolts a numerical edge against their construction crew foes.

Wait, you mean you AREN'T the reunited Spice Girls?...The Wrecker, aptly named leader of the Wrecking Crew, gained his powers through dumb-luck and mistaken identity, and has ever since had the enchanted power of an Asgardian. Like a good working stiff, he shares this power with his fellows in the gang; Thunderball, Bulldozer & Piledriver. Spreading the enchanted power not just to their chosen weapons, but also to each of their selves.

These days Wrecker does this without cost to himself, thanks to a little wax-on training with Ulik. This roughly equates to a quartet of badly dressed Thor-level villains, complete with construction based gimmicks, and a whole lot of average joe 'tude.

The Thunderbolt's find their key to victory in their versatility.
Under the strategic guidance of a disguised Baron Zemo - who is no fighting slouch - they are able to utilize their combination of strength, technology and super powers to deliver an encompassing attack on the one-note foes.

Likewise, the Thunderbolts, at least in this period, have the element of surprise. Most villains are completely unfamiliar with their techniques, while the former Masters of Evil have unique incite to the strategums and capabilities of their foes. This is perhaps the true edge, not seen against the likes of the Hulk. [Incredible Hulk #449]

The Math: The Thunderbolts (Total) The Wrecking Crew (Average)
The Pick: The Thunderbolts

What went down...
With New York City still reeling from the mass destruction unleashed by Onslaught, the Thunderbolts occupy their time dealing with the scavenging baddies, The Rat Pack. Having already defeated them, the team is quick to pose and rally in front of the press, mounting their efforts to again take the battle to the villainous clan.

The Rat Pack are quick to take to the skies, and even though they fully recognise the maneauver as an ambush, the Thunderbolts take chase, following the lowly crooks out of Manhattan toward Liberty Island.

There, they find themselves under the attack of an enchanted wrecking ball -- the calling card of Thunderball! His weapon destroys the V-wing, forcing the team to rally, those with capabilities of flight aiding those without.

Techno shows reluctance to battle hired crooks that might otherwise be counted as colleagues, but Citizen V quickly stems his remarks, masking them with the bold baratone of a charging superhero. Taking the cue, Atlas extends his size and strength to make an explosive landing on the island, bowling Wrecker and Piledriver, while Moonstone lends the assist against Bulldozer.

Apparently unaware of the history of the Citizen V monicker, Wrecker engages his team-leading counterpart in physical and mental combat. The Baron is more than ready to engage him in both, lithely avoiding a savage crowbar attack, with a razor edged retort of defeats passed.

While the rest of the teams duel it out, curious tourists on the island come under threat of falling rubble. Fortunately for them, Songbird is there to lend her sonic constructs as protective shields.
As Bulldozer barrels down on her, it is fortunate for Songbird that Mach-1 is on the scene to scoop up the threat with rocketting precision.

Continuing the theme of teamwork, Atlas comes to the aid of an overwhelmed Citizen V, using his impressive size and strength to clobber Wrecker into a self-made crater. Alas, Citizen V's warnings come too late, the cocky Atlas succumbing to a little teamwork from the away side.

As Atlas hurtles into the drink from the impact of Thunderball's strike, Meteorite does her best aerially to deal with Piledriver.

The super-powered menace uses his unusually large and powerful hands to wrench a piece of concrete from the battleground, using it as a massive projectile to send Meteorite hurtling into the Statue of Liberty like her namesake!

With the city watching on in horror, the Wrecker strikes at the base of the statue, sending a quiver up Liberty's spine. He challenges the star-spangle clad Citizen V to surrender, or face the consequences of being responsible for the symbol's destruction on national television.

Revelling in their apparent checkmate, the Wrecking Crew barely notice Mach-1 circling around in the air to fire spherical projectiles from the wrist mount of his armor. Each globe reaches it's target, stuffing the gobs of the cackling villains, before spewing forth noxious gas!

Under the direction of Citizen V, Songbird uses her sonic constructs to create forcefields around the Wrecking Crew's heads, trapping the gas that smothers them into unconsciousness.

His mouth shielded, the still intimidating Bulldozer mocks the Thunderbolts, but even as he speaks, his confidence begins to wither in direct response to the looming shadow from above.

A half-drowned and thoroughly ticked Atlas calls a grudge for Thunderball, but agrees to settle for the last man standing, thundering down a giant-sized fist that knocks Bulldozer back far into the city.

As the team reassembles, a strange noise begins to flood over the tiny spirited island. A sound recognizable, but yet definitely unfamiliar to the Thunderbolts.
The sound of the people cheering. The gratitude worthy of heroes.

The hammer...
Awww, ring the bell, sucka! School's back in, and the T-bolts be puttin' on a masta class of ass kickification, son!

... No good? Yeah, well, the Thunderbolts are the winners, whether my exploits as a jive talking web wacky work or not!
Bahlactus has been getting all the press for a while now, but lately respect has finally come home to roost for Secret Earths, and I've got to bring the hammer down on a whole lot of thanks to those guys.

Some of that respect finally motivated me to get on to this week's Ultimate Alliance entry, featuring the Wrecking Crew. For my estimation those guys have been about the only thing worth talking about from Mike Oeming's latest writing effort, which seems to have been downgraded from on-going to Omega Flight mini.

Even with the disgraceful slow burn and distinct lack of Mike Oeming: penciller, Omega Flight did open with some big action, and we'll probably get an opportunity to talk more about that series some time in the future.

What really knocks me on my ass here is the Thunderbolts.
While his work seems to have meandered somewhat through some easy standards; Warren Ellis has had many-a fan, myself included, several shades of jazzed over the villain-cum-hero team.

The mask donning heard around the world!What's especially bizarre about finally discovering a love of the team is the fact that they're now a seasoned outfit, having a full decade of superheroics and internal squabblings under their belt. It was over ten years ago that we gazed upon that fateful scene where Citizen V revealed himself and his teammates as none other than The Masters of Evil! Wow!

Sadly, I was somewhat excited by the concept, but utterly bemused by the product itself. The characters were mostly second-tier villains that weren't obscure favourites, and the designs of the hero costumes, with the exception of Citizen V, inspired barely. It wasn't a book that lived up to the hype.

Some ten years later it's instability has been fully realized, but the formula has been refined in a world where superhero politics makes the lines between hero and villain all that much more blurred. The Thunderbolts exist now in a world almost inadvertently made for them, living their lives as heroes admist laws that willfully empower them to hunt down their costumed nemesis like dogs.

It's with hindsight that it can be debated that the Thunderbolts are by design a gauge of the zeitgeist of the Marvel universe. From their inception, they were the brilliantly simple response to the a power vaccuum left in the wake of Heroes Reborn, and now they again react to events in Civil War and redefinition of what a hero and villain is to the Marvel universe.

I don't mean to discount the work that went on between, and mark missing out on the so-called "fight club" years as a disappointment; but in an era still feeding and learning from the 'grim and gritty' progression of the eighties, maybe we can propose the Thunderbolts represent the final step in that exploration.

I'm confounded by regular references to the necessity of likeable and heroic characters in comics. It strikes me as foolish to claim entertainment and fiction require anything but the barest means of relating and approving.
I'd like to think maybe one day we will look back on books like Thunderbolts and recognise their contribution to our medium as the catalyst for motivated writing, over conventions of 'heroes', 'villains', and 'anti-heroes'.

And after that stretch of a musing, I'll wrap things up.
Still more Fantastic Fridays as we try to catch-up on June's delays, before reverting back to the original Friday Fight Nights. In the mean time, stay tuned!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4
NEXT WEEK: What evil lurks in the heart of The Lizard? The Spider-man knows!